BY RYAN ABER
Giroux one away from 600
With his next point, Barons winger Alexandre Giroux will become the 44th player in American Hockey League history with 600 points.
If Giroux gets that point tonight or tomorrow, he’ll go form 500 to 600 in less than a year.
Giroux scored his 500th point on Dec. 19, 2009, on a second-period goal in Hershey’s 5-4 win against Rochester.
Giroux’s next goal will be No. 319 in the AHL, tying him for 13th overall in league history. He could be in the top 10 by the end of the season. Brad Smyth is currently No. 10 with 326 goals. No. 9 is Tim Tookey with 353.
Petiot expected to return
Richard Petiot is expected to play tonight for the first time since Nov. 7.
Petiot suffered a knee injury in that game against Toronto and was initially expected to miss just a week or two.
“It’s just one of those things you want to make sure it’s healed all the way before you come back,” Petiot said. “I didn’t want to come back too early and then wind up hurting it again and being out for longer.”
Petiot is plus-3 with four assists in 15 games for the Barons.
With most of the week off, Barons coach Todd Nelson put his team through a pretty rigorous practice schedule this week, something Petiot said helped him to be sure he was ready to return.
“It’s definitely a help,” Petiot said. “I’ve been testing it out and it feels good so far.”
Defensemen all accounted for
While the possibility remains for a defenseman to be called up this weekend, as of now it looks like all the Barons defenders will be in place for tonight’s game.
Earlier this week, Nelson said the most likely candidates for callup to the Oilers were Alex Plante (4 NHL games), Shawn Belle (15 NHL games), Taylor Chorney (44 NHL games) and Jeff Petry (0 NHL games). He also said Petiot remains a possibility if he could prove he was healthy.
“It just depends on what they want,” Nelson said. “We’re talking to them every day.”
It didn’t take long for Linus Omark to make his mark after a callup to Edmonton last week.
In his debut, Omark assisted on a Tom Gilbert goal in the second period that put the Oilers ahead.
But his big mark came in the shootout, when he started with a spin-o-rama in the neutral zone before beating Tampa Bay goalie Dan Ellis to clinch the Edmonton win.
Nelson has seen the move before. Omark most recently did the spin move in a shootout at Manitoba. That attempt, however, did not lead to a goal.
“He scored, that’s the point,” Nelson said. “You have to let guys be creative when they can do things like that.”
Nelson said Omark improved consistently throughout his time with the Barons in fitting his creativity in to the Barons’ overall system.
“Guys that have that creativity to do things like that, you want them to do it but it has to fit within the system,” Nelson said. “But when they can make it work in that structure, then it’s a good thing for the team and for the sport.”
Omark had another big night in last night’s Oilers win over Columbus, scoring his first NHL goal and assisting on two more in Edmonton’s 6-3 win.
Deslauriers headed to Spengler Cup
The Barons will be without goaltender Jeff Deslauriers for at least three games and possibly a few more after being named to the Canadian team in the Spengler Cup, which will be played Dec. 26-31 in Davos, Switzerland.
Deslauriers is 4-4-2 with the Barons.
He’s the only player on Canada’s roster for the event who doesn’t play professionally in Switzerland.
Deslauriers will share goaltending duties with Tyler Moss, who has played in the NHL with Carolina, Calgary and Vancouver.
The Barons figure to recall Bryan Pitton during Deslauriers’ absence. Pitton has already had several stints with the Barons, playing in three games with a 1-1 record.
Canada finished fourth in last year’s event and was runner-up in 2008. They last won the tournament in 2007.
The team will be coached by legendary Oilers star Mark Messier. Oilers assistant Bill Moores will assist Messier.
BY RYAN ABER
A couple of short notes before the Barons take on Rockford at 7:05 tonight (KTOK-AM 1000):
-Barons coach Todd Nelson said newly recalled winger Jesse Gimblett could make his Barons debut tonight depending on the health of other players but seemed less inclined to play Gimblett after the game than in pregame talks.
Before the 4-2 win over Manitoba on Friday, Nelson said Gimblett’s size made him a likely candidate to enter the lineup against a physical Rockford team. But given the way the Barons played against the Moose, Nelson said he wasn’t inclined to switch things up.
The most likely switch for Gimblett would’ve been with Phillippe Cornet, who was regularly a scratch before Linus Omark and Ryan O’Marra were recently recalled. But Cornet played a solid game Friday, likely earning himself another game in the lineup.
“I want to get Jesse into a game, I’m just not sure when,” Nelson said. “I don’t know when it’s going to be. It’s pretty hard to make a chance right now but we’ll see.
“I thought Phil Cornet played his best game of the year. Making his case. That was great for us to see.”
-Nelson was particularly impressed with the play of Jeff Petry in Friday’s game. Petry scored a goal on a coast-to-coast move that finished with a wraparound and also played solid defense in the win.
“He’s got a great shot, moves the puck like a pro,” Nelson said. “He’s just playing with more confidence. He’s playing better away from the puck. That’s what we were trying to get him to do. He’s more aware in the D-zone.
“He’s coming along nicely. He’s going to be a special player in the future.”
-Nelson was also happy with the play of center Dave Bonk. Bonk, playing on a line with Liam Reddox and Teemu Hartikainen, played a lot especially early.
“I thought he was great tonight,” Nelson said. “That’s the way he plays. He’s very dependable down low and he’s very creative. In the first period, I think he had some opportunities. That line was good for us. I thought Hartikainen picked up his game.”
Hartikainen and Alexandre Giroux played together on a line coming off penalty kills.
-Former Oklahoma City Blazers winger Wade Brookbank is expected to be in Rockford’s lineup tonight.
Brookbank played for the Blazers in 1999-2000, racking up 354 penalty minutes in 68 games.
The 33-year-old has played 18 games for the IceHogs, scoring a goal to go along with 18 penalty minutes.
“Those guys don’t kill the majority of penalties so after a big kill, we want to get some offense going so we throw them out there,” Nelson said.
BY RYAN ABER
Bonk sharing line with Reddox, Hartikainen
Dave Bonk, just up from the Central Hockey League’s Allen Americans, will play tonight on a line with Liam Reddox and Teemu Hartikainen.
That’s a pretty nice role for a new addition to stop right into.
“Those are two really good players,” Bonk said. “Hopefully I get an opportunity to play quite a bit.”
Bonk played one game for the Barons earlier this season, skating for the team in an overtime loss to Houston on Oct. 15.
Bonk said his approach will change a bit this time around, though.
“The first game before, maybe I played a little tentative and didn’t want to make any mistakes,” he said. “I know I’m not up here to try and light it up but at the same time, I feel I do have some skill and playing with those guys, it makes the game easier. Hopefully I can play well and stay with those guys.”
Bonk has six goals and 15 assists in 16 games with the Americans this year. In his last three games in the CHL, Bonk has seven points (two goals, five assists).
“It’s going really good,” Bonk said. “I think I’ve been contributing a lot. I haven’t been scoring much but we’ve got lots of guys that can score down there. If I’m getting assists, that’s fine too.”
Nelson said Bonk was a natural fit to get the first chance at taking over at center when the Oilers called up Ryan O’Marra.
“We got a natural centerman taken away from us from Edmonton and we wanted a natural centerman to come up,” Nelson said. “He did a good job for us before and he’s having a pretty good year so we felt comfortable with him.”
BY RYAN ABER
I wrote today about Barons coach Todd Nelson being able to relive his lone NHL goal (Barons coach goes back in time
Here are three Barons’ recollections of their first NHL goals (Alexandre Giroux has scored four NHL goals as well):
(5 NHL goals. First goal Nov. 15, 2008 at home against Colorado in an eventual 3-2 shootout loss. Reddox’s goal came at 7:25 of the second from Fernando Pisani and Andrew Cogliano)
“I don’t remember much about it, I just remember seeing the pictures. I think I had five or six different celebrations after I scored. Other than that, it was pretty surreal being able to score my first NHL goal, especially so early in my NHL career (it was Reddox’s second NHL game and first of that season).
“Initially, I think I was a little annoyed because Cogs looked me off. He gave it to Fernando Pisani. Pos missed the net, it came off the backboards and I was right on the doorstep. I just tried to get it over, I think it was Budaj in net (it was). I just tried to get it over his pad and after that, everything went blank. I came to when I got back to the bench.”
(Lone NHL goal Nov. 28, 2009 in Vancouver in an eventual 7-3 loss. McDonald scored at 6:06 of the second from Ryan O’Marra)
“I do have the tape but I actually haven’t watched it. Hopefully there’s many more to come but I think that’s something that I’ll just hang on to and once my career’s over, I’ll take a look at. For now, I’m just trying to get back there so I don’t see there’s any need to watch it quite yet.
“I remember exactly how the play happened. I remember the celebration. It was definitely the best moment of my life. We were in our defensive zone and O’Marra had the puck and ended up getting it to me wide. I was playing the left side there and it was a 3 on 2 and the defenseman gave me some room to shoot and I shot it and it just happened to go in. I’ve scored a couple of goals similar to that. I did one this year at home against Texas on my off wing so I’ve shot there before.
“I got a couple of messages from guys that saw it but the one I remember most was from my goalie back in school (Tyler Sims). He said how I used to score on him all the time with that same shot so he wasn’t surprised.”
(Lone NHL goal Jan. 27, 2004 for Columbus against New Jersey in a 4-3 New Jersey win. His goal came in his fourth NHL game and first of that season. The goal was assisted by Rick Nash and David Vyborny)
“It’s just exciting and kind of a relief at the same time. It’s something you never forget.
“I remember the play. I was out there with Rick Nash and David and they made a great play and hit me backdoor. I got my own rebound and was able to score.
“It was on Martin Brodeur so that made it even more special.”
BY RYAN ABER
Barons goaltender Martin Gerber lost a close decision to Manitoba’s Eddie Lack in a shootout loss Friday.
In the rematch Saturday, Gerber won in a knockout.
Gerber posted his second shutout of the season and the Barons got to Lack in the second and third, closing out a five-game roadtrip with a 4-0 win at the MTS Centre.
A pair of Barons players snapped long scoring droughts in the win. Ryan O’Marra, after picking up his 13th assist earlier in the second, scored for the first time this season at 17:28 after Linus Omark’s pass deflected off a Moose defender to O’Marra.
Late in the third, Alexandre Giroux scored his first goal since Oct. 27 on the power play. Giroux, the AHL’s leading goal scorer in each of the last two seasons, had gone 14 games without a goal.
The Barons, No. 1 in the AHL in penalty killing, killed off all seven Manitoba power plays, including a pair of extended 5 on 3 chances.
“I thought we were not too much puck-watching,” Gerber said on Manitoba radio. “We gave them some shots but we tried to keep them as far out as possible. That’s always helpful for the goalie.”
Gerber also shut out Lake Erie on Oct. 19 at home.
Matt Marquardt and Omark also scored for the Barons, who return home at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday to play Houston.
Omark also assisted on Giroux’s goal.
Gerber was making his second start for the Barons after a two-game stint in Edmonton.
Friday, he had his seven-game Barons and nine-game overall winning streak halted by Manitoba’s 3-2 shootout win.
Saturday night, Gerber quickly was challenged after Jordan Bendfeld and Taylor Chorney drew penalties just 4 seconds apart about nine minutes into the game.
But Gerber turned away several Manitoba chances on the 5 on 3 and wound up stopping all 37 Moose shots.